Northern Illinois University – NIU conducted almost 70 workshops during this semester to train the students in responding to different forms of oppression and privilege.
A series that is called the “Conversations on Diversity and Equity” – CODE, and is run by the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – ADEI, was conducted for almost 191 student organizations, as per a news report.
CODE workshops also include “Situating the Self,” which helps in defining the diversity lingo; “Power Dynamics of Difference,” where students are taught “critical thinking skills and knowledge regarding how privilege and oppression shape their experiences and perspectives in relationship and communities”; and “Engaging Systems of Oppressions,” which “immerses dedicated individuals with the lifelong dedication necessary for social justice work.”
ADEI also offered different customized workshops that are tailored to spread the message of diversity to the participants.
Each CODE session costs the NIU $30, according to a university spokesperson.
In the fall semester only, more than 900 faculty, staff, and students, of the campus population of about 22,000, actively participated in this one of a kind diversity training, according to NIU Today – a university newspaper, compared to the 782 individuals in all of last year.
Jocelyn Santana, the NIU’s social justice education coordinator, said, “That growth is very exciting because NIU is committed to creating initiatives and programs which challenge and dismantle negative assumptions about otherness.”
ADEI also co-hosted the program with the support of a broad network of campus institutions, including the law school, Student Affairs, Residential Housing, Career Services, and the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.
The ADEI will further oversee a two-day CODE Facilitator Training program in January next year to teach the participants about the various dimensions of social identity; help them understand and negotiate their own network of identities and how these forces further influence their approach to the social justice and learn about conflict intervention.
CODE lessons in disrupting power dynamics may also reflect the ADEI recommendations for professors on how to identify and shut down micro-aggressions within the classroom. Providing the examples of such “third-party intervention” include how to respond to “the myth of meritocracy,” like a student who says, “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough”; or how to confront a student who goes on and asks a non-white peer where they are originally from.
NIU currently has around 17 CODE facilitators, including the staff from the office of student conduct, housing and dining, and career services, who conduct these workshops.
NIU is now climbing out of a severe financial crisis. It has received full state funding this fall for the first time since 2015 when the Illinois state legislators had finally passed a budget in July following a historic two-and-a-half year political stalemate, but at a 10 percent decrease from the last appropriation.
As the university has waited for its state legislators to move beyond the impasse, it has also been forced to cancel all the construction projects, cut staff, and delay all the required maintenance work.
Still, NIU moved ahead with its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – a three-year plan, which had rolled out in the year 2014.
Joe King, who is an NIU spokesperson, in an email said that the items in this three-year plan — such as the creation of a faculty diversity toolkit that offers those tips on micro-aggressions — “have made significant progress toward their goals… at little or no cost.”